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How Does a Solar Cell Work?

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Solar cells are composed of various semiconducting materials. Semiconductors are materials, which become electrically conductive when supplied with light or heat, but which operate as insulators at low temperatures.

Over 95% of all the solar cells produced worldwide are composed of the semiconductor material Silicon (Si). As the second most abundant element in earth`s crust, silicon has the advantage, of being available in sufficient quantities, and additionally processing the material does not burden the environment. To produce a solar cell, the semiconductor is contaminated or "doped". "Doping" is the intentional introduction of chemical elements, with which one can obtain a surplus of either positive charge carriers (p-conducting semiconductor layer) or negative charge carriers (n-conducting semiconductor layer) from the semiconductor material. If two differently contaminated semiconductor layers are combined, then a so-called p-n-junction results on the boundary of the layers.

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At this junction, an interior electric field is built up which leads to the separation of the charge carriers that are released by light. Through metal contacts, an electric charge can be tapped. If the outer circuit is closed, meaning a consumer is connected, then direct current flows.

Silicon cells are approximately 10 cm by 10 cm large (recently also 15 cm by 15 cm). A transparent anti-reflection film protects the cell and decreases reflective loss on the cell surface.

photovoltaics: crystalline solar cell

   Model of a crystalline solar cell

Characteristics of a Solar Cell

The usable voltage from solar cells depends on the semiconductor material. In silicon it amounts to approximately 0.5 V. Terminal voltage is only weakly dependent on light radiation, while the current intensity increases with higher luminosity. A 100 cm² silicon cell, for example, reaches a maximum current intensity of approximately 2 A when radiated by 1000 W/m².

photovoltaics: current-voltage line of a si-solar cell

   current-voltage line of a si-solar cell

The output (product of electricity and voltage) of a solar cell is temperature dependent. Higher cell temperatures lead to lower output, and hence to lower efficiency. The level of efficiency indicates how much of the radiated quantity of light is converted into useable electrical energy.

The principles of solar cell power generation

Solar cell is a light, responsive and are able to convert light energy into electrical devices. Photovoltaic effect can produce many kinds of materials, such as: silicon, polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, gallium arsenide, copper indium selenium. They are basically the same principles of power generation is now crystal as an example to describe the process of light generation. P-type crystalline silicon doped with phosphorus available through N-type silicon, the formation of P-N junction.

When the light irradiation solar surface, part of the photons absorbed by silicon material; photon energy transfer to the silicon atoms, so that electronic transitions have taken place and become a free electron concentration in the PN junction formed on both sides of the potential difference, when the external circuit connected , in which the role of voltage, there will be current flow through the external circuit produces a certain output power. The essence of this process is: the process of photon energy is converted into electrical energy.

Different Cell Types

One can distinguish three cell types according to the type of crystal: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and amorphous. To produce a monocrystalline silicon cell, absolutely pure semiconducting material is necessary. Monocrystalline rods are extracted from melted silicon and then sawed into thin plates. This production process guarantees a relatively high level of efficiency.
The production of polycrystalline cells is more cost-efficient. In this process, liquid silicon is poured into blocks that are subsequently sawed into plates. During solidification of the material, crystal structures of varying sizes are formed, at whose borders defects emerge. As a result of this crystal defect, the solar cell is less efficient.
If a silicon film is deposited on glass or another substrate material, this is a so-called amorphous or thin layer cell. The layer thickness amounts to less than 1µm (thickness of a human hair: 50-100 µm), so the production costs are lower due to the low material costs. However, the efficiency of amorphous cells is much lower than that of the other two cell types. Because of this, they are primarily used in low power equipment (watches, pocket calculators) or as facade elements.

Material Level of efficiency in % Lab Level of efficiency in % Production
Monocrystalline Silicon approx. 24 14 to17
Polycrystalline Silicon approx. 18
13 to15
Amorphous Silicon approx. 13 5 to7

From the Cell to the Module

In order to make the appropriate voltages and outputs available for different applications, single solar cells are interconnected to form larger units. Cells connected in series have a higher voltage, while those connected in parallel produce more electric current. The interconnected solar cells are usually embedded in transparent Ethyl-Vinyl-Acetate, fitted with an aluminum or stainless steel frame and covered with transparent glass on the front side.

The typical power ratings of such solar modules are between 10 Wpeak and 100 Wpeak. The characteristic data refer to the standard test conditions of 1000 W/m² solar radiation at a cell temperature of 25° Celsius. The manufacturer's standard warranty of ten or more years is quite long and shows the high quality standards and life expectancy of today's products.

Electricity Energy Monitors (Sailwider-SmartPower's monitor can be used to monitor home solar plant)

Wireless Electricity Energy Control System with monitoring function for Home Solar Power Generator Plant

The basic figures contained within a monthly or quarterly electricity bill do not give you much information as to where your electricity is going - they just tell you how much you have used in total during that period and how much totally you need to pay. Therefore it is well worth considering purchasing an electricity usage monitor and using it to see exactly where all your hard-earned money is going.

China Wireless Electricity Energy Saving Monitor System

One great way to find out how much electricity each of your household appliances and electronic devices uses is with a wireless electricity power/energy monitor, which shows you in real time exactly how much money your total home or office electricity usage is costing you. These monitors can help you reduce your electricity consumption by as much as 20% simply by showing you what you are using. Sailwider-SmartPower is a developer and manufacturer of electricity power monitor and controlling system.

uni-directional (1-way) electricity power energy monitor

Most electricity energy monitors in the market are uni-directional (1-way) only, that means you can only get energy consumption information from the monitor. The bi-directional (2-way) electricity power monitoring and control system from Sailwider-SmartPower makes the user not only able to monitor the electricity usage, but also can easily remote control the connected electrical appliances wirelessly, providing great convenience to electricity efficiency management.

bi-directional (2-way) electricity power energy monitoring and control system


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